‘Choice of security bosses not politicised’ – Cwele

2009-10-03 15:41

MINISTER of State Security Siyabonga Cwele has dismissed criticism that President Jacob Zuma has surrounded himself with loyalists in his choice of intelligence chiefs.

On Friday, government announced the country’s three new top spooks. A new state security agency will be headed by Mzuvukile Maqetuka who will coordinate the work of both the internal National Intelligence Agency and the external SA Secret Service (SASS).

Lizo Njenje is now the director-general of the NIA while Mo Shaik will head SASS. Shaik’s appointment has raised a storm because he has previously used intelligence structures to defend President Jacob Zuma. Critics fear the politicisation of intelligence will continue unabated. All three men have worked in intelligence before. Njenje was suspended by former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils.

“We have seen the effects of politicising intelligence in the past and we should try to move away from that. It really doesn’t help anyone to politicise intelligence,” said Cwele.

He added: “Everyone has their weaknesses but we are choosing to look at their strengths.

“Their weaknesses can always be worked on. They have clear instructions and will be evaluated on that,” said Cwele.

He said the changes in the security cluster, including the restructuring of the civilian intelligence structures, are aimed at increasing efficiency but more importantly, creating unity within intelligence.

The merging of the national intelligence structures, including the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee, the South African National Academy for Intelligence (Sanai) and the Intelligence Services Council (ISC) are efforts to bridge political tensions and create a professional environment.

“In the past we’ve had some difficulties because of a divided intelligence security. We are trying to change this by building a professional service free from political divisions,” said Cwele.

But an international security analyst said: “The politicisation of security services has continued with these appointments. You need an outward-looking service run by career professionals.”

The analyst said it was clear that South African intelligence operatives had dropped the ball. “What was the NIA doing when the military was plotting to strike?” He also questioned why the intelligence services had not picked up the unhappiness in communities where protests have erupted.

Cwele denied that the NIA was unaware of the military strike or the protests.

“I can’t share any details on these matters. But what I can say is that our job is to forewarn and share information. Whether people act on it is a different matter,” he said.

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